There are only a small handful of states that I’ve never visited: Alaska (hard to get enough time off work to drive there), Hawaii (I’m not a fan of flying), Michigan (I don’t know, always just seemed a little out of the way) and Maine. My reasons for not visiting Maine aren’t for lack of trying. My wife and I once attempted a weekend drive to Kittery. But that drive came up short as we spent the weekend wandering the Green and White mountains respectively (beautiful, of course). So I’ve never been to this state, but if the botanicals of Back River Gin are telling me anything about what this place is like, then the omission of Maine from my travelogues is a grave mistake on my behalf that I should remedy as soon as possible. Okay, now on to the gin but first- a special thanks to Keith and Constance at Sweetgrass Farm Winery and Distillery for sending me this review sample.
The nose of this gin is certainly unique. I’m immediately struck by the sweetness of it. There’s notes of Cassia and Cinnamon, a vague hint of citrus and floral fruitiness backed with a gentle and pleasant juniper aroma. It smells like a gin for sure, and I’m struck by certain aromas which might be unusual when looking at gin on the whole but seem so natural and harmonious here. The scent of this gin is a strong invitation to take a sip. And take a sip I did…
Based on what I had read about Back River Gin, I knew to be on the lookout for the blueberry. It adds a mellow sweetness and even dominates the palette while never seeming quite like too much. The first sip is rich and smooth. The flavors begin with the same scents from the bouquet before the blueberry kicks in. The finish has a sharp juniper note that hits you in the back of the throat. The finish is long and just a touch fiery, but never too much.
At this point, Back River Gin had me pretty impressed. But how does it work in cocktails?
Three Third Impressions
First and foremost: the G&T. Stunning. I mixed it up with your traditional sweet supermarket Tonic. It was good with Canada Dry. The Blueberry and juniper came through, but only the faintest intimations of the Cassia. I then paired it up with the more bitter Q Tonic, and the flavors really shone. The lime and the bitterness of the tonic make a refreshing counterpoint to the flavors of the gin. I highly recommend it.
Next on to the Aviation. The 43% alcohol gives Back River Gin a little more power and the ability to hold its own in cocktails such as Aviation. I chose this cocktail not only because it is among my favorites, but because the Blueberry and floral notes I thought would pair very nicely with the Violet. It paired very nicely, and the Cinnamon notes gave some depth to some of the usually buried cherry and almond notes in the Maraschino liqueur. Its a very nice cocktail and helps showcase the diversity of the cocktail.
I’m sure you thought I was going to go Negroni right here. Probably because a) I always use Negronis as a benchmark and b) They’re one of my favorite cocktails. But this time I’m going in a completely different direction, and not just because I’m out of Vermouth.
Corpse Reviver #2: This is an ultimate test. There’s a lot of strong flavors swirling around here. You’ve got a little bit of Absinthe, the Lemon and the Orange, and of course its fair share of Lillet. And how did it hold up? Blueberry and Absinthe? Though a lot of the more exotic notes of Back River gin didn’t come out, the core juniper and gin-like qualities held their own and the Corpse Reviver had its characteristic juniper base.
Overall, its hard to find a better gin than this one. It certainly isn’t a classic London Dry style. It would likely get lumped in the category of “New American” or “New Western” simple because of the florals, the inclusion of ginger and blueberry and the strong Cassia notes. Simply put, Back River gin is an incredible contemporary style gin. This is the kind of innovation that makes tasting gin and writing about gins as exciting as it is. This gin works well in everything, from the martini to the G&T and everything in between.
Price: $30 / 750 mL
Origin: [flag code=”US” size=”16″ text=”no”] Maine
Best consumed: In nearly anything or anyway you can think of.
Availability: Liquor stores in the Northeast with wide selections, as well as many places online.
Rating: Unique and worth hunting out.
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